The bad smell gave way to a mix of style and substance
There is something about Tyrone, something that arouses emotions in many neutrals. Over the past decade this could hardly be categorized as a fabulous admiration as they made themselves hard to love even in the 2000s with a squad that had a number of brilliant players. They only have reluctant respect.
Certainly know a little about it, as Meath was hardly a role model for virtue in the late 1980s. The team didn’t care. It was a force. The individuals involved were not in vanity or public adulation. They just played their game and became private citizens again. It wasn’t a show, it was just the type of character involved that didn’t need audience approval. They were happy in their own skin.
We met Tyrone a lot during this time. Eugene McKenna and Frank McGuigan were still just as good to Tyrone or anyone else; Noel McGinn and big Audi Hamilton, who ensured that no Meath player would come under crowd pressure after a particularly tough game at Omagh. Then there was my old friend Damian O’Hagan and Kevin McCabe with whom I played club football in Skryne. They were easy to like players. They played hard but when it was over it was over.
When Tyrone beat Kerry in that famous semi-final in 2003, it was good. Tyrone had changed the laws of engagement and while it took a while to get used to a new game, there is still room for innovation. Tyrone has developed and produced many outstanding displays of stylish attacking football while still having a clear edge. Tyrone supporters have never let me forget my comment at the time that Brian Dooher was a bad footballer. I shouldn’t have said it because besides being false, it was insulting.
Most GAA supporters were also happy to see Tyrone win an All-Ireland while Peter Canavan was still playing. I was manager of the International Rules team in 1999 and 2000 when we beat the Australians at home and away. “Peter The Great” was awesome and neither the size nor the power of the Australians fazed him. He was quick, witty, and the best of the company.
John McDermott was team captain and Peter vice captain. They had a few skirmishes in the 96 All-Ireland semi-final when McDermott met Canavan and he wasn’t as effective after that. The fallout from this match was not friendly, so international rules gave them space to come to an agreement. Either way, with ‘Peter The Great’ it didn’t matter if you were Attila The Hun, once you put on the same jersey you were going to be supported even if war broke out – as it sometimes did.
Tyrone has grown more cynical over the past decade and wasn’t as good as before. In 2015, Tyrone beat Monaghan in the All-Ireland quarter-final, but the game was marred by questionable tactics from the winning team, diving for free and encouraging the referee to send off opposing players. The final insult was Tiernan McCann lying down after Darren Hughes brushed his hair.
At Sunday game I said there was a bad smell after Tyrone because of their antics. This happened around the same time as a Tyrone v Tipperary U21 final when Tipp was very unhappy with Tyrone’s tactics and didn’t allow Tyrone’s management to enter his locker room after the match. Feargal Logan was manager and Peter Canavan was manager. There were also misunderstandings between the Tyrone and Donegal miners.
My comments weren’t well received and after the All-Ireland semi-final a drunk Tyrone fan did his best to hit me. I was not in danger of death, but the comments of the Red and White Army were poisonous. Logan did his best to calm things down that day although he was pissed off at my comments, I was grateful for his help. Earlier I had met Canavan in the elevator in Croke Park, he mentioned the TV commentary and was clearly annoyed. Some old friends cut all ties, some definitely.
Yet no one had questioned whether the behavior of Tyrone’s players at the time was good or bad. It was really a matter of close ranks and shooting at the messenger, but I considered their conduct at the time to be far below acceptable standards, which Tyrone’s previous teams never looked into. Not spitting, kicking, or trying to get your opponent kicked out is the unspoken code of honor.
So what has changed so much that Tyrone’s supporters are now friendly and the letters are no longer poisonous? This year’s delayed semi-final made a difference and in my opinion ultimately ended in a fairness issue. Tyrone had a big problem with Covid, they wanted an extra 13 days to prepare for the semi-final and I thought they were entitled to it.
When an infectious disease expert told Croke Park that the numbers among the team were bad and they shouldn’t be asked to play, I believed him. Kerry agreed even though it was through gritting her teeth and of course, it was suspected that this gave a few players a little more time to recover from their injuries. So be it. The place to talk is on the ground. Kerry had chances to win the game, they didn’t grab them, neither did Mayo, so Tyrone deserves champions.
In some ways, I took advantage of the situation on TV to ask Kerry to agree to a further postponement. Looking back, Tomás ó Sé thought it was a cheap shot and wondered if I would have said the same about Meath after the Leinster final in 2010. It was a reasonable comparison and I’m absolutely consistent now as I do. was then. I didn’t like what happened after that game, I thought Meath should have offered a replay or just gave the game to Louth. There was no honor from that day on and not much luck since, but there was also an abject lack of leadership at all levels. The GAA should have ordered a rerun and to hell with the previous one.
In the Tyrone case, I found it absolutely laughable that they were publicly challenged to provide an explanation to anyone after the medical report was handed in. Medical records are private, some people seem to forget that. I also didn’t see why the number of Tyrone players who were vaccinated should have been allowed to be questioned. Again, it’s private and I can understand why some players were reluctant to get vaccinated during this part of the season.
I know I wouldn’t have done anything for several days after the two jabs. Why would a player risk missing a game or several practices, which could also cost him his seat, at the most critical time of the year? And when it comes to the accusations of celebrating after winning Ulster, well winning this province is different from all the others and celebrating it is hardly a crime.
Tyrone has therefore brought a different image this year and should be applauded for it. If the rumors that they are quite loose with their tongue are still true, the opposing players should just face it and continue the game. It was also noteworthy that when Donegal’s Michael Murphy pulled that loose kick in the game Championship this year and was subsequently sent off, a number of Tyrone’s players were looking for a card, the most obvious being Michael McKernan. It’s up to the referees to take care of it. A black card for a protester would solve all the problems.
Tyrone won an All-Ireland the hard way – they had to beat Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan in Ulster. Then they beat Kerry, the favorites, and Mayo in the final.
It might not have been the biggest championship in terms of quality and it turned out to be a poor Mayo side in the final, but every championship won at club or county level always seems easier after the event. . And Tyrone will be better. Some felt they came to the final without a midfielder, Brian Kennedy and Conn Kilpatrick changed everything against Mayo.
Tyrone won with a little more flair in every way than they had for a long time. There seemed to be a cultural shift from smothering the opposition in every way possible to more offensive play with lots of precise kicking. And they played with honesty and manhood. It should be recognized and admired.